Dad runs 867 miles after daughter dies in her sleep

Russell Willox, whohas run more than 800 miles following the sudden death of his daughter

Russell Willox, whohas run more than 800 miles following the sudden death of his daughter

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Russell Willox knows exactly how many miles he has run since his five-year-old daughter died suddenly in her sleep.

As of last night, he had counted 867 - and says he has imagined his girl Sophie running alongside him on every one.

Sophie Willox, who died in her sleep aged five.

Sophie Willox, who died in her sleep aged five.

Mr Willox, an IT specialist with an oil firm in Aberdeen, took to running after Sophie died last December.

He had tucked her into bed as normal one night but was unable to wake her the next morning.

In response, Mr Willox started running as a way of working through the grief - but also to raise funds for Sophie’s school and the organisations which had helped his family during her short life.

He ran the Loch Ness Marathon in September and completed the Edinburgh Marathon in May - on what would have been his daughter’s sixth birthday.

The running has really helped me come to terms with what has happened. It certainly helps me think about things.

Russell Willox

He hopes to raise £15,000, with every penny to help other children at Hazlewood Primary in Aberdeen and social care charity VSA, where his son Milo attends the summer play schemes which Sophie had been due to join.

Mr Willox said: “The running has really helped me come to terms with what has happened. It certainly helps me think about things.

“I used to listen to music while I was running but I have stopped that now. I like the peace and not to be overly sentimental, but I like to imagine Sophie running alongside me.”

Mr Willox has also overed 250 miles on bicycle as he continues to train, despite a knee injury.

As life without Sophie must go on, Mr Willox an his partner Kate were recently forced to deal with some difficult news about their late daughter.

Unexpectedly, they received a letter from a research team examining possible genetic defects in children, with the family taking part in the study back in 2012.

Sophie had been born with several health issues but doctors were never clear as to the root of her physical and developmental issues.

Researchers established that Sophie had a rare and newly identified genetic disorder called DDX3X, of which there are less than 100 diagnosed in the world.

Sophie is one of 21 girls - the condition only affects females - diagnosed with the condition in the UK, although this figure is expected to rise as more results from the 12,600 participants around the worlds are known.

Mr Willox said: “I guess me and Kate don’t know what to think, whether it was a good thg that we know or not. But on balance, it is a good thing as we are able to talk to other people whose children have the same condition.

“We have been in touch with one woman in Ireland whose 16-year-old daughter also has DDX3X and it has been amazing to speak to someone whose girl is just like Sophie was.”

Mr Willox has also met with researchers to discuss their findings and he said it had been a comfort to learn that his daughter was unlikely to have suffered.

He added: “It has been said that Sophie died from a form of cot death. It helps us to know that Sophie did not suffer and know that Milo does not suffer form the same thing. And knowing what happened to Sophie helps to help other children, and that is so important for us all.”

Donations can be made to Mr Willox’s fundraising campaign at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RussellWillox.

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